THE GRIP OF THE LIONS PAW
An important form found among Freemasons is the ‘Lion’s Paw’, or ‘Lion’s Grip’ formed by placing the fingers in the form of a cat’s paw. This grip and its reference to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, has significance in several respects, both legendary and allegorical as it’s message is of transition and everlasting life.
As a symbol, the lion has always been a favorite during Antiquity which lasted through the Christian era as well as during the Middle Ages. The lion has in all ages been noted as symbol of strength and sovereignty. The ‘King of the Beasts,’ whose mighty roar brought fear to the hearts of all, was known and respect by many ancient cultures. The lion’s head and mane, was used in ancient Kemet, recognizing this animal as the ruler of the animal kingdom. Having the ‘heart of a lion’ was, and is today, deemed an acknowledgment of strength and character. Medieval knights adorned their shields and coats of arms with representations of lions, lion’s heads, manes, and paws. Richard, the Lion Hearted, and his famous shield of three lions are well documented, both in history and legend, signifying his sovereignty over England.
The Jews sometimes used the lion as an emblem of the Tribe of Judah as they expected the Messiah to descend from this tribe. This reference was carried over to Christianity where the Lion of the Tribe of Judah refers to Christ, the Messiah. To the ancient craft of Masonry, this symbolism was seen further in the death and the resurrection to life of man. Legend had that a lion’s cub, or whelp, was born dead and brought to life by the roar of its sire. As such, the reference to the lion may be applied to the Messiah, who brought life and the light of immortality to the tribes of Israel, through the roar of God’s word.
Its connection in the legend of Masonry is that, as Solomon was the Chief of the Tribe of Judah, the symbolism of the Lion represents the achievement of that Tribe in producing the Christ who brought all of us the promise of light and the immortality of our soul. Just as Solomon built the beautiful Temple unto the Lord, so the candidate is raised to the living perpendicular of righteousness by the Lion’s Grip. Symbolically he has been resurrected by restoring the purity of his soul. The candidate now bears the responsibility of building his spiritual temple here on earth which will be worthy of eternal life.
This is also the theme of the 3rd degree, or Hiramic Legend which is a story of ‘rebirth’. It is about the resurrection of Hiram Abif, as well as the candidate himself. The candidate symbolically ‘dies’ to his past, the life of the profane, not knowing light, and is ‘resurrected/reborn’ into further light in Masonry. He puts his past life behind him and is now a seeker of enlightenment and moral rectitude. The name HIRAM originates with the word ‘Khairum’ or ‘Khurum’; Khur meaning “white, noble.” The Egyptian deity called by the Greeks, “Horus,” was ‘Her-Ra Khurum’, therefore, improperly called Hiram, is ‘Khur-om’, the same as ‘Her-Ra’, ‘Her-mes’, and ‘Her-acles’, the personification of Light and the Son, the Mediator, Redeemer, and Saviour.
The symbolism of resurrection in masonry is clearly an important part of the journey and quest for Light. In moving from darkness to Light, the initiate recognizes his personal transformation and improvement. Applying this symbolism to the candidate means that he entered the Lodge as a natural man, lost in sin and spiritually buried. By the strong Grip of the Lion’s Paw, he is raised again to a new life, or born again to spiritual righteousness, standing, again in a living perpendicular with a purified inner self accomplished through the direct action of the Redeemer, who was the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
Albert Pike, in his book ‘Morals and Dogma’, gives this interpretation of our legend, saying “The Lion of the House of Judah is the strong grip, never to be broken, with which Christ of the Royal Line of that House, has clasped to Himself the whole human race and embraces them in His wide arms as closely and affectionately as Brethren embrace each other on the five points of fellowship.”
The front cover of his book is the illustration of an “X,” in the form of a crossed gavel and a measuring stick, or rule. The illustrated picture within this book shows how the grip of the Lion’s Paw was given in the Pyramid Mysteries. The priest wore over his head the mask of a lion. By this grip the spirit in man, long buried in the sepulcher of substance, is raised to life, and the candidate goes forth as a builder entitled to the wages of an initiate. The origin of this illustration can be found in a depiction copied from a ‘bas-relief’ in an ancient Kemetic temple at Denderah, which sheds light as to the ORIgin of the Lion’s grip.
In the relief, the candidate, lying on the floor, is about to be ‘raised’ by the powerful grip of the Lion’s paw. The lion is carrying in his right hand the Ankh, symbol of life and reincarnation, or regeneration. The “X” on the man’s chest tells us this is Ausar/Osiris, the Sun God who was slain but arose from the dead, being pieced back together by his beautiful Queen, Auset/Isis. The Black God is represented first as a mummy lying flat on his back. Bit by bit he is raising himself up in a series of positions, till he rises between the outstretched wings of Auset/Isis. This is the same raising of Heru who was raised up to life in This world and not into the world to come.
* Morals and Dogma – Albert Pike
* The Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Vol.1 – Albert Makey
* 777 Qabbalistic Teachings – Aleister Crowley
* Codex Magica – Texe Marrs
The Lion of Kush/Kemet/Judah :